Not Your Boss’ Focus Group: Focus Group Alternatives for Tight Marketing Budgets

I wonder if you think that focus groups are passé.  With the onset of social media, it might be tempting to put focus groups on the back burner of your market research plan.  After all, they are expensive and time-consuming.  But that doesn’t mean that they are unnecessary.

Focus Groups 101

A focus group is method of quantitative research in which a group of people are asked about their perceptions about a product and other aspects related to the product like its packaging, service idea, advertising and service. An interactive group is formed and participants are free to talk with other group members, so basically a discussion group is formed and people are led towards discussing various aspects about a product or service .Ernest Dichter coined this term and now it is one of the most popular method to estimate and measure consumer satisfaction.

Here are a few ways that focus groups are used in a variety of disciplines:

In marketing

Focus groups are used to acquire feedback regarding new product, as well as various topics in the field of business marketing. This is helpful for the new companies that are planning to develop some new product. It helps them to discuss about it as well as test it before it is launched. The information so derived is priceless and provides a lot of information about the potential market acceptance of the product.

In social sciences

Through focus groups, people in the field of social sciences and urban planning can study people in a more natural setting than a one-to-one interview. The duscussions through focus group can be used for gaining access to various cultural and social groups and to explore unexpected issues. Focus groups are cost effective and yield quick and believable results.

Basic Focus Group Methodology

In traditional focus groups, respondents are screened in a room to ensure that they are part of the relevant target market and they are representative of subgroup of this market segment. The group consists of usually 6 to 10 members and the session usually lasts for 1 to 2 hours. A moderator is there to lead and facilitate the group discussion which is observed by clients from behind through a one-way mirror.

The video tape of discussion can be made which can be used by researchers to examine more than the spoken words. Additional information is gained through interpretation of facial expressions, body language, and group dynamics. Information gained from this group dynamics is invaluable and give researchers a precise insight into the minds of respondents

The various kinds of focus groups are as follows, the names are generally self explanatory::

  • 2-way focus group
  • Dual or double moderator focus group
  • Dueling moderators focus group
  • Respondent moderators focus group
  • Client participation focus groups
  • Mini or micro focus groups
  • Teleconferencing focus groups
  • Online focus groups

Modern Alternatives to Traditional Focus Groups

I started this article by promising you focus group alternatives for today’s modern marketers and here they are:

  1. Online communities: The most obvious and free online community is a Facebook group.  You can have private as well as public Facebook groups.  These are a quick and easy way to engage with your customers and prospects.  You can use some of the similar methodologies to facilitate and administer the groups.
  2. Mobile research: There are several mobile platforms that allow for community engagement around a specific topic. With 87% of the world’s population now mobile subscribers, we are in a great position to leverage the power of mobile research. Its applications can range from simple SMS text messaging interactions to leveraging expanded mobile capabilities like video, QR code scanning and location-based data.
  3. Video diaries and photo diaries: These can easily be incorporated using your QuestionPro tool that allows for the uploading of pictures.
  4. Online Chat:  Why not use Google Hangouts to conduct online chats either via video or text.